You may be too foxy!

Although the title of this post might make you think this is some strange cross between Star Wars and the video game series by Sega, instead it’s a different sort of combination, mainly coming from a great NPR podcast called “Hidden Brain” by Shankar Vedantam and a book called Expert Political Judgement by Philip Tetlock. As a matter of fact, the title of this post is literally one of the chapters in Tetlock’s book.

The Hidden Brain podcast episode, which turns out to be about transgender surgery, starts off by mentioning a metaphor about the fox and the hedgehog, originated by Greek philosopher Archilochus and popularized by philosopher Isaac Berlin.  In the story – and the essay from Berlin, hedgehogs view the world through the lens of a single, powerful, overarching, defining idea – in their case, “DO NOT GET EATEN” – and do so by rolling up into a spine-covered ball, and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of tactics to hunt a variety of prey.

Read the rest of this post on our sister blog: People, Planet, Profits & Projects, here.

Frenemies?

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Working with stakeholders of various backgrounds… with varying degrees of buy-in –and bones to pick with you as well as each other… getting them all to focus on a common goal.

Sound like project management?

Sure does. That’s why this article posted just a few days ago caught my attention. That stakeholder theme drew me in – as well as the fact that it was using the COP21 meetings in Paris as the context.

The article opens: “The business community is well-represented at the United Nations climate summit underway in Paris — and it will be much more engaged in finding positive solutions than ever before.”
Brief history lesson here:
1n 1992: Five thousand delegates at the first climate summit in Rio, 13 people — were representing the business sector in that first meeting. Why? Business was considered the cause of all evil and was seen as an enemy.  Moving forward to 2015, to COP21 in Paris, and what do you have?
“More than 1,000 business representatives will be in Paris and most will be supportive of climate action, says Edward Cameron, who represents We Mean Business, a nonprofit coalition that is working with companies on climate change.”
That’s quite a change! And here comes the other project management-y piece to this story. It doesn’t take too much imagination to conclude that 1,000 businesses focused on climate change are going to be launching tens of thousands of projects geared to make climate-change-oriented (and of course profit oriented!) goals. Goals that used to be considered at odds with each other, and now, by orders of magnitude, considered to be quite aligned.
As we said in our first book (Green Project Management, which, by the way,  has a cover which features a tree that yields paper money) and now our second book (Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success), the two endeavors of social and planetary “good” and making money are not enemies.

They’re not at odds with each other at all – rather, they are complementary and (for lack of a better term) synergistic.
It’s yet to be seen if the stakeholders of COP21 can come up with an agreement – after all, another interest group represented is government – but we see good news in the fact that business is participating not as an enemy but as a partner; and we hope that the project management community recognizes this partnership and the focus on sustainability not as a threat or a set of new constraints but rather a whole new set of opportunities.

So we would argue that business and sustainability are not friends, nor enemies, nor frenemies, but rather partners.  And although climate change presents a very real threat, the solutions that will be brought to bear will require project managers in vast quantities.  That being the case, we should be thinking about the partnerships we can build as PMs to make these solutions reality.

A good start to a greener year

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We ended last year (on precisely December 31) with – of course – a piece on New Year’s resolutions.  And we themed it with the idea of “definition“, as in working on your definition of project success; injecting it with sustainability thinking.

And we begin this year with definition as well – this time a couple of very optimistic stories about green-by-definition projects.  As you’ll recall, our book, Green Project Management [© 2011, CRC Press] discusses a ‘rainbow of green projects’ which vary from those where you’ll have to work harder to inject sustainability (‘green-in-general’) to those where the project itself is delivering a sustainability-oriented outcome (‘green-by-definition’).

This pair of projects come to us via CNN’s “Going Green” TV series, hosted by the grandson of Jacques Cousteau,  Philippe Cousteau.  It’s a good show, you may want to set up your DVR to record it.  That’s what we’ve done.  And to be honest, this show originally ran in mid 2013.  But since we just saw it, it’s new to us for 2014.

The two projects are involved with – literally – greening up the country, one of the poorest in the world, and a victim of deforestation, making it prone to horrendous flooding.  The main fuel source is charcoal.

We provide a link to the show (it’s up on YouTube) and embed it below, so we won’t go into great detail here but will rather summarize these two “good news” stories.

Daniel Tillias and the Story of SAKALA

In this section of the show, Cousteau is guided by Daniel Tillias through a project which has converted garbage to a community garden capable of feeding hundreds of people directly, and indirectly, through employment and morale-building, has helped to elevate the Cite Soleil, one of the poorest cities in the world.

Smallholder Farmer Alliance

This initiative is taking place in a rural region near Gonaives.  The Smallholder Farmers Alliance, a progressive, environmental and business success story in which some two-thousand Haitian farmers are planting millions of trees, transforming the landscape (and preventing flooding) and reaping real economic benefits as they grow their way to a better tomorrow.

Have a look at the show.  It’s uplifting.  And it shows two examples of excellent projects which are green-by-definition.

Happy New Year!